Max, The Day After

This post is a follow up to yesterday’s Pulling for Max, My Best Friend.

First, thank you from the bottom of my heart. From Max’s, too. Below I will give you my perspectives on the day and hope that I’m speaking well for Max.

Wow! What an incredible outpouring of love. The spirit of this community really shined for me yesterday, helping me feel so supported through the whole day while I was trying to be there for Max, who didn’t know what the hell was going on around him.

My update, unfortunately, is not the one I hoped to give you. It’s not the “everything’s going to be fine,” “we beat this thing” scenario we were all pulling for.

As I mentioned in the comments yesterday on the original posting, there were steps we were taking as a process of elimination to ensure that surgery made sense for Max. In order for that to be the case, first his X-rays had to be clear in the abdomen, spleen, liver, etc.  The result of the X-rays was: “things look very good.”

The next scanning was ultrasound. For that they took some sonic pictures – those looked good, too.

With a sense of optimism at that point, we waited for the radiologist to arrive for the CT scan.

During this hour, I stayed alone in the private room they had given me for the day. I had two “signature” items with me in the room that represented Max. One was his dirty tennis ball and the other was his embroidered collar with dog tags. I sat on the floor in there and meditated for a long time, clenching the collar in one hand and the tennis ball in the other. I was sending Max all my love along with all the love you incredible folks were channeling his way. After a few minutes, though, tears started streaming out of me and dripping onto the floor. Something was causing me sadness and this was troubling.

Somewhere out in the hospital, the radiologist had started the CT scan. It was at that point that things derailed from the hoped-for path. As I said in yesterday’s post, if the CT scan showed no tentacles and expansion of the tumor past the subcutaneous layer, surgery was viable and the tumor could be removed with a positive likely outcome for Max’s health. But that was not to be.

Dr. Alexander came into my room. I think she was a little surprised that I was already crying. Max was somewhere else in the hospital totally anesthetized and under an IV drip. She very conscienciously proceeded to show me on her Macbook the slice-by-slice images of Max’s body through his hind quarters. The pictures showed clear metastatic extensions of the tumor throughout the neighboring muscle and around his spine. The cancer had progressed too far for surgery. It was definitive. 

There are moments in life none of us will forget. That, folks, was one of them.

Grasping for composure at that point, I agreed with Dr. Alexander that we’d cancel the surgery and she excused herself briefly. At that very moment, one of your fellow community members called me to ask how we were doing.  As a professional in animal care matters and experienced in dealing with their owners, she was literally like an angel sent at just the right moment to console me and give me a direction to head from that very low point.

I couldn’t even speak. The realization that cancer would beat us instead of us beating cancer was choking away my words. She cried with me briefly and then told me this: “He’s going to need you to be strong now. Pull yourself together. There are still good times ahead and you have to give him those times. You can only do that if you’re strong. Be strong.”

That was a wake up call.

Yes, I cried a lot more throughout the day. But even in spite of the sadness and the crying, I kept returning to the responsibility I had now. Now it would be about making each moment special, giving him extra attention and priority, and giving him joy and dignity throughout whatever amount of time he stays with us.

They soon brought Max in on a stretcher and laid him down on the carpet with me so I could be there as he awoke. One very cute moment: The first time he opened his eyes from the anasthesia, not even able to lift his head yet, he squinted at me, laying there right alongside his face. After a couple seconds he recognized me and you should have seen that tail wag! His whole body was sedated and still as a rock but that tail was going CRAZY. Soooo cute!

To say the least, by the end of the day and finally back at home, I was completely spent. Max was conked out at my feet, groggy from his drug-induced day.

On the bright side, he finished the adventure unshaved, uncut, not in any pain whatsoever, and doing what he usually does, staying right at my side (in this case, at my feet having a foot-tapping dream).

I thought about that and the “ordinariness” of the night. Strange. What a contrast to a day gone by filled with that remarkable, unprecedented outpouring of love, something new to me and totally profound.

Crazy as it sounds, in that quiet moment, in spite of all the heaviness, I actually felt lucky. Yes, lucky.

Thanks, everyone, for helping me realize that though there’s ugliness in this world, there’s also beauty to balance things out. Thanks for restoring my confidence in the positive power of people and friends and love and for restocking my soul.

Max and I both will be savoring what you shared with us as we love life going forward.

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